Inclusivity, rather than exclusivity, must underscore bumi agenda

PUTRAJAYA: Equity and access to jobs, business and funding were constant themes during discussions on the second day of the Bumiputra Economic Congress 2024 on why the community was still lagging behind in generating sustainable incomes.

This is despite the fact that there are now nearly 16 government ministries and agencies tasked with providing bumiputra with grants and loans to start businesses and scholarships to get professional degrees.

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Academicians and business leaders argued that despite the well-meaning policies, the barriers to accessing government assistance have to do with problematic mindsets – among bureaucrats, the private sector, and the bumiputra themselves.

Nazroof Hakim, who heads Billplz, a digital payment platform, said a critical mindset change is that bumiputra have to see entrepreneurship as a viable pathway to nurturing a livelihood due to how the Covid-19 pandemic has structurally changed the economy.

But that change of mindset must be complemented with a willingness to struggle and not depend on others in order to grow and succeed, said Nazroof.

“For a bumiputra these days, the only way forward is through entrepreneurship. My father told me – no one will save you except yourself. Not the government, not society,” he told a session on scaling up small and micro enterprises.

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Nazroof suggested that national identity cards be configured with a basic company commission licence to spark a mindset change among Malaysians that they can be entrepreneurs the day they are born. This is different from the current practice where the government and financing bodies require a multi-point compliance checklist in order for anyone to start a business, he said.

“Make it as easy as possible for them to become entrepreneurs, and then when they reach a certain level of revenue, only then do you bring in the compliance checklist.”

An entrepreneur who spoke about the importance of access to financial aid was Datuk Muhamad Guntor Mansor Tobeng, of bumiputra renewable energy firm Gading Kencana.

“For the solar farm market, financial access is very important. I have been rejected by eight different banks,” he said, recounting his experience during a session on opportunities for bumiputra in the national energy transition plan.

He persevered and prevailed thanks to his network of friends and the help of government agencies such as Teraju, Mara, SME Corp and the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA).

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